(From right) Secretary Jesse M. Robredo's wife, Leni, with daughters, Jillian, Aika, and Tricia. (Malacanang photo)
Lawyer Leni Robredo, whose husband Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash, is now the epitome of grace and strength as she calmly deals with the tragedy.
"No regrets. Alam ko he lived a full life, he fulfilled all his dreams," the widow said in a televised press conference, when asked if she would have preferred a private life for Robredo.
Leni recalls that her husband always found time to be with the family, despite his busy schedule. She recounted that Robredo even gave her an improvised bouquet in their last wedding anniversary.
"Hindi ko alam na darating siya, meron siyang bundle of flowers," Leni recalls.
And beneath the public official's strict persona in law enforcement and policy-making lies a father who wanted only the best for his three children.
"Wala na daw siyang panaginip para sa sarili niya, para na lang sa mga anak niya," Leni adds.
The fateful day
On the day of the plane crash, Leni said she was constantly in contact with the late Interior secretary.
"He wants to be home. Akala niya matatapos 'yung okasyon at 5 pm. He knew wala na siya maabutan so I thought hindi na siya tutuloy. But a staff member told me tutuloy. Tuwang tuwa kasi siya pag nasusurpresa kami," Leni said.
Robredo was rushing home because he wanted to congratulate his daughter.
Leni said that at around 3:15 pm, Robredo told her he has boarded the plane and that the expected time of arrival was at 4:15.
"I drove to Pili airport, just before i reached the airport, he texted me 'balik ang plane sa Cebu'," she said. At around 4:40 she said she was still able to contact Robredo who answered: "Ma, may inaasikaso ako, tawagan na lang kita."
And that was it.
Hours later, news broke that the Naga-bound Piper Seneca plane crashed off Masbate. Long, grueling hours of search and rescue operations followed. Two days after, Robredo was retrieved from the plane's fuselage. Since then, Leni exuded calm and strength.
"Lubos ang aming pasasalamat sa lahat ng nagpaabot ng pakikiramay. Malaking bagay po sa pagharap namin ng kalungkutan 'yung pagmamahal na ipinakita ng lahat. Napakarami na palang buhay na kaniyang natouch," said Leni.
Robredo was 'ready'
Leni said Robredo was "ready" to go.
"I think he was prepared to face the Lord. Napakadalas mangumpisal, in a month. Handang handa 'yun. I didn't even question kung bakit siya kinuha ng maaga [why he was taken away early],"the widow said.
And although Robredo had to face a tragic end, it was probably the best plan for him, said Leni.
"While tragic kasi hindi kami na-prepare, yung klase ng death na inabot niya, reward yun sa lahat ng magandang ginawa niya," she added.
Leni expressed sadness though that Robredo, a devotee of the Our Lady of Penafrancia for several years, would no longer be at the fluvial procession this September.
"Palagay ko siya [Robredo], andyan pa rin siya. Siguro malungkot 'yung fiesta kung wala siya," Leni said.
Leni also thanked all who sent their sympathies from all over the country.
"Hindi ko alam kung ano ginawa ng asawa ko..pero ang sarap na consolation lahat ng lalapit sa akin, yung asawa mo ganito ang ginawa para sa akin. Hindi lang po kami nakaramdam ng lungkot. Alam namin magiging masaya yung asawa ko," she added.